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Bear Mass Market Paperback – Jan 1 1976


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Mass Market Paperback, Jan 1 1976
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 141 pages
  • Publisher: New Canadian Library (Jan. 1 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0771093225
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771093227
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 10.7 x 1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 68 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,115,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

Bear, which won Marian Engel the Governor General's Award for fiction and remains her best-known novel, is a short, lyrical book with a simple, notorious plot. A solitary, reclusive woman works as an archivist for a Toronto-based Canadian history institute that receives a large and unusual bequest by a descendent of a notable military family: a remote house in northern Ontario, filled with an unknown quantity of books and manuscripts. Engel's heroine travels to the house, which is accessible only by water, and begins to catalogue the deceased colonel's collection. Along with the house, the protagonist encounters Homer Campbell, the capable, friendly manager of the local general store and gas station, and an aging black bear that was once a pet of the Institute's benefactor.

As Bear continues, its heroine's research among the house's antiquated library draws her into serious reflection on romantic literature, but most readers won't bother with this--it is the protagonist's sexual relations with her pet bear that are the most famous element of the novel. Engel is, happily, not particularly graphic in her treatment of this subject, but she does load it with a great deal of symbolism. Many readers will find that her novel tries too hard to be a parable of animalism, while others will simply dismiss this solipsistic love story (for that is what it is, after a fashion) as unbelievable. Nevertheless, anyone who is not adverse to this mode of didactic storytelling will find Bear to be an enjoyable--and unusual--read. --Jack Illingworth --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Review

“It’s been called an outrage, it’s been called pornography, it’s been called pastoral, mythological, gothic, none of which quite manages to say what this book does. It explodes, in as slow and tranced a way as is possible: it is a book that explodes between the reader’s hands, into the reader’s head.”
--Aritha van Herk, from the afterword
 
“A short, convincing, deeply strange book. It says at once insightful and mysterious things about our relationship to the wild. It’s often funny, in a serious way, and yes, weirdly hot. . . .  It should be read because it brings something to the conversation that wouldn’t be spoken if we didn’t read it, if we kept things strictly appropriate. Bear is brave. We should be too.”
--Andrew Pyper
 
“It’s a modern Canadian fable, an ironic play on romantic pastorals, and, above all, totally readable.”
--Hazlitt Magazine
 
“Fascinating and profound, this novel speaks of a woman’ strange (some would say bizarre) and moving journey toward inner freedom and strength, and ultimately toward a sense of communion with all living creatures. It’s an astounding novel, both earthy and mythical, which leads into the human self and also outward to suggest and celebrate the mystery of life itself.”
--Margaret Laurence
 
“A special book which persuades and reaches the reader in many ways – a timeless book written with a cool, classic touch.”
--Kirkus Reviews
 
Bear works as simply and mysteriously as a folktale. It is a remarkable tour de force.”
--New York Times --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most helpful customer reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Rick Hunter on Jan. 18 1999
Format: Paperback
Marian Engel's short novel Bear is an odd book. Winner of the Governor General's Award (Canada) in 1976, it clearly has attained critical success. In broad outline, Engel tells the story of a bookish young woman, Lou, working as an archivist in dusty historical institute, who is given the field assignment to catalog a nineteenth century library located on a remote island in Ontario. The only other inhabitant of the island is the pet bear of prior the occupants, and a strongly sexual - though not consummated - relationship develops between them The subject matter of this book may be very disturbing to some - an afterward in the Canadian edition to this book notes that many have described the book as "pornographic". I do not agree with this censor's view, but agree that it is not a book for children or prudes.
The real "subject" of the book is Lou's growth from retiring recluse to more confident woman; although the medium of transformation is through sexual awakening, this is not the sole or even principal end result.
Finally, a word must be added about Engel's wonderful writing. Her characters, settings, and descriptions are lively, strongly visual, and at times amusing. Take, for example, her musings on historical Canadians: "The Canadian tradition was, she had found, on the whole, genteel. Any evidence that an ancestor had performed any acts other than working and praying was usually destroyed. Families handily became respectable in retrospect but it was, as [Lou] and the [Institute Director] often mourned, hell on history." More such fine writing awaits the reader of this short but non-complacent novel, which I recommend.
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By betsy lougheed on Aug. 4 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
loved the book
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By snowyowl on Aug. 8 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the references to places and people I recognize. I like to imagine we can have loving (not sexual) relationships with animals. I though Engel's descriptions were excellent......however
I do not like the vulgarity of her language and she, like so many of the 'ancestors' in the book found yet another way to abuse and exploit the bear.
Overall, I found it sad.
Often I am glad to pass on my books to friends and family. I am not sure what to do with this one.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 15 reviews
33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
A disturbing tale finely told Jan. 18 1999
By Rick Hunter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Marian Engel's short novel Bear is an odd book. Winner of the Governor General's Award (Canada) in 1976, it clearly has attained critical success. In broad outline, Engel tells the story of a bookish young woman, Lou, working as an archivist in dusty historical institute, who is given the field assignment to catalog a nineteenth century library located on a remote island in Ontario. The only other inhabitant of the island is the pet bear of prior the occupants, and a strongly sexual - though not consummated - relationship develops between them The subject matter of this book may be very disturbing to some - an afterward in the Canadian edition to this book notes that many have described the book as "pornographic". I do not agree with this censor's view, but agree that it is not a book for children or prudes.
The real "subject" of the book is Lou's growth from retiring recluse to more confident woman; although the medium of transformation is through sexual awakening, this is not the sole or even principal end result.
Finally, a word must be added about Engel's wonderful writing. Her characters, settings, and descriptions are lively, strongly visual, and at times amusing. Take, for example, her musings on historical Canadians: "The Canadian tradition was, she had found, on the whole, genteel. Any evidence that an ancestor had performed any acts other than working and praying was usually destroyed. Families handily became respectable in retrospect but it was, as [Lou] and the [Institute Director] often mourned, hell on history." More such fine writing awaits the reader of this short but non-complacent novel, which I recommend.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Elegant, exquisite and very different May 22 2009
By KatPanama - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Strange and elegant book about a summer, a woman and a bear on an island -- also about books and knowledge. I could not (um) bear interruptions whilst reading this short novel and gobbled it up in one sitting. Definitely goes on my This Year's Best Reading list. Marian Engel was a brilliant Canadian writer who won the Governor General's Award with "Bear" in 1976 which itself is rather shocking given the content and tenor of the times.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Tawdry covers and titles like Taken by a T-Rex Aug. 15 2014
By M. J. Evans - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Back in July I made my annual trek to Rhode Island for NECON, a small gathering of horror writers and artists. One of the discussions I got involved in was the trend toward Monster Porn that seems to be so popular on Amazon these days. Tawdry covers and titles like Taken by a T-Rex, Raped by a Raptor, and Moan for Bigfoot. No, I haven't read them, but someone asked me if I had ever read Bear by Marian Engel, and silly me had never even heard of it. I asked what it was about and was told it was about a woman who has sex with a bear. "A werebear," says I, thinking along the lines of paranormal romance, and he said, "No, a real bear." He went on to say that it had been a bestseller in Canada and even won some sort of award. Turns out the the award it won was the Governor General's Award, the highest honor a book can receive in Canada. Curiosity got the better of me; I had to check it out. I mean, how bad can it be, right? Bestiality? I've read worse.

The novel starts off innocently enough with the Institute Lou, our central character, is employed by inherits the Cary estate, which is situated on a remote Canadian island. Lou is sent to settle the estate and catalog the massive library contained within the house, as it was requested that the library not be separated from the property. Lou doesn't quite know what to expect upon her arrival at the house; the one thing she is not expecting, however, is a bear. A tame bear. It seems the previous own kept a bear on the property, penned up and chained the way you would a dog in an outdoor kennel.

At first she wants little to do with the animal, and the bear expects nothing from her except its food, but it seems the prior owner was fascinated by the species, as were her ancestors, as there are notes written on slips of paper in just about every book Lou picks up, all revealing some cultural or historical fact about bears. It might be subliminal, but before too long she takes an active interest in the bear, taking it for walks, swimming with it, and even allowing it into the house to curl up by the fireplace while she works. With no one else on the island save for an old Indian woman, who Lou has only encountered once or twice, Lou has no social outlet unless she wants to take a trip to the mainland, so she turns to the bear as a companion. The relationship between the two progresses quite rapidly, and eventually becomes intimate, and that's when Lou begins to lose herself. She becomes more of a wild woman, living only for the bear, and it seems like she is willing to give up her previous life to stay on the island and care for the bear. The inability to consummate their relationship by committing that final act frustrates Lou, and at first she blames the bear, but then she realizes the fault lies with her, and what she was attempting to do is wrong. She does make one last attempt to "seal the deal" so to speak, and ends up being gravely hurt in the process.

The book itself is not a bad book, and once you get past the "eww" factor of a woman performing intimate acts with a wild animal, you see what the book is really about. During the course of the narrative, we find that Lou tends to give of herself with no expectation of getting anything in return. This can be said if her work life and her romantic life. Her relationship with the bear is symbolic of her life, and you go through it wondering when she is going to wake up and realize that what she is doing is wrong. That point does come, and with it comes that realization that she deserves more out of life.

After I finished reading Bear, I closed the book and wondered, What was so great about that? It was okay, but hardly worthy of the award and praise it has gotten. But now that some time has passed and I've had a chance to look at it as a whole, I see how amazing the book truly is and how skillfully the author was able to encapsulate all aspects of this woman's life in that one relationship. I would highly recommend it.
7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A Poetic and Erotic Novella Nov. 6 2012
By D_shrink - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A rather short 141pp but fascinating story of how a lonely but passionate historical librarian finds herself with nature while cataloging the book collection and artifacts on a remote island in the Canadian wilderness with only the pet bear of the prior owner for company. The estate of Jocelyn Cary and its all contents were left to an institute which Lou, the librarian works for. The only other visitor to the remote island is Homer Campbell, the co-owner with his wife Babs of the supply store on the mainland. The store is by no means a modern supermarket and Lou sums it up when she says on p40 "It made her glad she had grown up on Campbell's Soup and bologna and peanut butter sandwiches."

The story becomes erotic bestiality but told in beautiful snippets of prose as, "The weather was like silk on her skin." Yet truth be told Lou enjoyed cunnilingus with the bear, whom she simply calls BEAR. On p119 Lou says, "They lived sweetly and intensely together. She knew that her flesh, her hair, her teeth and her fingernails smelled of bear, and this smell was sweet to her."

Yet through all of this attempt to find herself, she knew it must end and describes it so on P139, "She went back and sat in the empty, enormous house...It was a fine building, but it had no secrets. It spoke only of a family who did not want to be common clay, who feared more than anything of being lost in history."

Reading this was a deeply moving experience. The writing and descriptive passages are beautiful and I would highly recommend it for fans of serious literature. It is a shame that this Canadian author's life ended so soon in 1985 at a rather young age, but her work lives on.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Bear Revisitied Oct. 28 2012
By Susan from NYC - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read Bear years ago and when discussing obscure and wonderful books with a friend I wanted to re-read it and see if it stood the time test. Ha! Try to find a copy - NYPublic Library - one copy in the entire 5 borough system and cannot be borrowed (?!), B & N - sorry, not in stock, looks like out of print, Amazon - one click and you can have it in a few days. Yes! Hey - this book is still beautiful, edgy, moving, and worth a second and third read.

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